US Relinquishing What Tiny Control It Had Of The Internet... If UN Isn't Allowed To Take Over

from the not-that-big-a-deal dept

This was rumored for a while, but the Commerce Department has now said that it will be "relinquishing" its "control" over ICANN's IANA, which administers the basic structure of the internet domain system. You can read the details here. Of course, the US government's "control" over ICANN/IANA has always been a lot more on paper than in reality. From the beginning, while the Commerce Department technically had oversight concerning ICANN, it had always been careful to live up to its promise that ICANN was to be independent of the US government. So, while some are making a big deal over this, it's unclear if it will really matter that much.

The big fear over the past few years was that certain foreign interests -- lead by authoritarian regimes in China and Russia (with long track records of censoring the internet and stifling dissent) -- would take control of the internet away from ICANN via the ITU, an organization that's a part of the UN. That was extremely problematic on a number of levels, given in part that the ITU process is entirely controlled by country governments without input from other stakeholders, such as technologists. ICANN is far from perfect (very, very, very, very, very far from perfect), but the ITU would be significantly worse.

However, from what's being said, it appears that the Commerce Department's plan is conditional on the UN/ITU not getting control, and for internet governance to remain a multi-stakeholder process, rather than one solely controlled by governments.
U.S. officials set strict conditions and an indeterminate timeline for the transition from federal government authority, saying that a new oversight body must be created and win the trust of crucial stakeholders around the world, said Lawrence Strickling, a top Commerce Department official. The announcement essentially ruled out the possibility that the United Nations would take over the U.S. role, something many nations have advocated and U.S. officials have long opposed.
That's a good thing. From what's being said, it sounds like the Commerce Department would like ICANN to continue more or less the way it has been running, just without the official claim to being overseen by the Commerce Department. Could that lead to troubles down the road? Sure. But, frankly, the US more or less forced itself into this position with its idiotic decision to let the NSA spy on everything. Before that, plenty of other countries were happy with de facto US "control" over the internet. But once it became clear just how deep the NSA's claws were within the internet, even former allies began to demand changes.

While the ICANN model can be improved upon (greatly), it can also be much, much worse. So where this goes will need to be watched closely. But, on a first pass, simply taking the Commerce Department's name off of things should have little direct impact for the time being. And, of course, it's worth remembering, that before ICANN, the internet was more or less governed (benevolently) by this guy.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    kenichi tanaka (profile), Mar 14th, 2014 @ 3:57pm

    Has the U.N. flipped its head? The government doesn't control ICANN. They are a private organization that regulates internet domain names.

    The U.S. Government relinquishing its control over ICANN is like Wall Street relinquishing control of the banks (which amounts to an impotent move).

     

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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 14th, 2014 @ 4:42pm

    The importance of clear definitions

    'U.S. officials set strict conditions and an indeterminate timeline for the transition from federal government authority, saying that a new oversight body must be created and win the trust of crucial stakeholders around the world, said Lawrence Strickling, a top Commerce Department official.'

    Define 'stakeholders'.

    Because more often than not, it seems when a government says 'stakeholders', they do not include the public, or anyone who might actually have experience in the subject at hand in that definition, but rather whoever can pay enough, or has enough clout, to make it in.

    So in that case, I'd imagine the 'stakeholders' will likely have among their number various governments, who aren't going to 'trust' anything they can't control, various groups/companies who likewise aren't going to 'trust' anything they can't control and have wildly different ideas as to just how the internet should be handled, and almost no one representing the actual public.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2014 @ 5:28pm

    'The big fear over the past few years was that certain foreign interests -- lead by authoritarian regimes in China and Russia (with long track records of censoring the internet and stifling dissent) -- would take control of the internet away from ICANN via the ITU'

    i think you better add the UK to this list. it may well not have been at it for long, but Cameron is doing his best to catch up. after the fiasco of stating 'child porn' was gonna be filtered out, the list has grown to self-harm and other subjects. it has also added in file storage sites, just because it can, having not proven to anyone (mainly because it didn't even bother to ask! it just did it because the entertainment industries wanted it, fucking muppets!) that they were illegal sites or holding illegal files. Cameron is going to go down in history for more than being a waste of space as a Prime Minister!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2014 @ 6:57pm

    Some questions

    - Without government oversight, who is to ensure the new body does not abuse its power?

    - Will there be a "bill of rights" to protect the rights of the people against such potential abuses?

    - Could the public reject this new body, if it became necessary?

    - If the public would so choose to abandon it, how would they set up a competing DNS system without running afoul of the trademark infringement lawsuits that would surely follow due to the same names pointing to different addresses? Will they therefore be stuck with whoever is in charge of the current DNS system?

     

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    kenichi tanaka (profile), Mar 14th, 2014 @ 7:53pm

    The United Nations is about as trusthworthy as the NSA and the FISA courts. Tell me again why we should trust the United Nations, who have been pushing for countries to adopt Agenda 21.

    The United Nations wants the ability to seize ownership of land no matter what country the land is in. They use local laws to enforce penalties against landowners that are more than what landowners can afford and then turn around and seize control of that private property.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Mar 17th, 2014 @ 8:22am

      Re:

      So then at worst, this wouldn't change anything at all.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2014 @ 7:29am

      Re:

      I hear of this Agenda 21 a lot from my little adventures in the conspiracy theory imageboard of some .."chill" old school 4chumps derivative. Last time I heard about it, it seems that, yes, it exists, but also that it has been replaced by something else...better or not, I don't know.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 6:14am

    Who can we trust, In my opinion no one there's not a single entity that's even remotely trustworthy enough without having a world wide bill of rights, but even then they'd create loop holes to bypass those rights.

     

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    Andrew D. Todd, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 6:18am

    ICANN Does Not Have the Capacity to Spy on People's Mail, or Censor Content, or Anything Like That.

    Most of the people here seem to have a basic misunderstanding of what ICANN does and doesn't do. ICANN's powers are extremely limited, and attempts to extend them have merely tended to discredit the organization. I spelled this out a couple of years ago:

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120601/10182719172/tell-un-to-keep-its-hands-off-peoples-inte rnet.shtml#c607

     

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    Daemon_ZOGG, Mar 15th, 2014 @ 11:01am

    "US Relinquishing What Tiny Control It Had Of The Internet.."

    With everything that's been happening over the years.. NSA spying, abusive internet trolls, censorship.. I see multiple internet networks forming. Something like a multiverse. Within it, each country and/or community forms its own unified network. Complete with its own security, elected or selected management group and authorized users. The current internet structure is at war. And it's losing integrity at an alarming rate.

     

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    Coyne Tibbets (profile), Mar 15th, 2014 @ 8:09pm

    Who worries about foreign ownership...

    Who worries about foreign ownership when there are so many companies that would love to own the internet; lock, stock and barrel. Just think:

    ICANN, a wholly owned subsidiary of...

    ...Verisign.
    ...Microsoft.
    ...Apple.
    ...Oracle.
    ...IBM.

    Let the bidding begin.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 7:29am

    Favorite thing about this story

    There is a so-called 'advocacy group' (read: dark money) called 'Americans for Limited Government' and...they are protesting this decision for the US to follow 'limited government' and relinquish control of ICANN. Seriously

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2014 @ 7:12am

    I'm getting pretty sick of seeing Russia wrote off as a "totalitarian", "communist", "nationalist" etc. It's like suddenly Russia absorbed all of the criticism slung at Obama in his first term. Yeah, they have internal policies we don't like, but they sure aren't communist, and there's more than one opposition party, the good old communists are now the second opposition party even!

    As for Russian control of the internet being scary...I don't see how it would be worse than since the megaupload/file locker/public torrent site hunt by the Five Eyes govs 2 years ago. Most of my piracy is done through Russian file lockers and public russian trackers (well no, the public piracy I do, private trackers are too awesome in general to bother elsewhere). Searching for anything, even not necessarily piracy related is increasingly difficult for most regular people these days.

    I've tried to show my uncle how to work usenet. The thing is when our common isp had its own usenet server (which they closed in 2008...for really specious reasons evidently), about 10 years ago, the guy was downloading from Usenet like crazy. Now he can't understand it. The Dumbening has happened, most people these days don't even have internet speed that is warranted according to their needs, they get too lazy to input commands for 40 seconds to get what they want.

    Sorry for the rant, hydrocodone syrup is talking a bit.

     

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